Cardinals have one goal as season begins

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Training camp practices don’t officially begin until Saturday for the Arizona Cardinals, but Friday was important.

The players -- all present and accounted for -- reported and were administered the annual precamp conditioning test, also called the “run” test. Coach Bruce Arians deemed it such a success that he cut it short. Excitement and confidence was in the air as camp began.

“Very, very pleased with the conditioning of the group, and I’d have been shocked if they weren’t in great shape,” Arians said, crediting the fitness staff and team nutritionists. “There’s nobody even close [to failing the test].”

One of the big storylines here is the return of quarterback Carson Palmer from a torn ACL last November that ended his season. Palmer had been playing well up until the injury and looked strong in offseason workouts. He arrived at training camp cleared and ready to practice in full.

Palmer will get every snap with the first-team offense in camp, Arians said.

“He’ll get all his normal reps, and then we’ll judge … we don’t put anybody on a pitch count in one-a-days,” Arians said. “We’ll see where he’s at and see what he needs each [preseason] game, and same thing with Drew [Stanton]. I know they can play on Sundays, but they still have to be game-speed ready.”

With Palmer healthy along with a large number of other players lost to injury for big or smaller chunks of last season -- including running back Andre Ellington, safety Tyrann Mathieu, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Stanton -- Arians sees a confident group ready for camp. Even after an 11-5 2014 campaign.

“This is a team that’s got a ton more confidence than it had last year, because we were right at the precipice. We had the [NFC] West championship in our building and we didn’t play well enough to win,” Arians said, referring to the Cardinals’ season that saw them make the playoffs despite being blown out at home, 35-6, by the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16, in the de facto division title game.

Arians said training camp gets easier every year, and that he’s happy to be in air conditioning and out of the 110-degree heat of the Valley of the Sun. He labeled today’s NFL training camps “Camp Cupcake,” compared to those of the past with two-a-day practices in cramped quarters.

Arians will use the preseason games to find a return man to open the regular season. Candidates include cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has electrified at the position in the past, as well as running back Kerwynn Williams, rookie receiver J.J. Nelson and veteran wide receivers John Brown and Brittan Golden.

“That’s really one of the things I’m anxious to watch,” Arians said of the competition at punt returner. “That’s going to be fun in the preseason games. I actually toyed with the idea of having some live coverage drills, but I’m not sure I’ll do that.”

Another competition will take place at center with Ted Larsen the veteran incumbent.

At the close of his comments Friday, Arians was asked about expectations.

“One,” he deadpanned. “Put a ring on our finger. Nothing else is going to be successful or acceptable.”